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Boots First, Then Corset!

Where I praise what game developers do right and point out some bone-headed mistakes. And maybe cover some more mature rpg topics.

Author: Ariel_Arilon

Farewell Blog

Posted by Ariel_Arilon Saturday October 18 2014 at 12:45AM
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It was a beautiful late autumn morning. The sun felt warm on my skin and the sky was a rich blue. A light south-west breeze brought with it the last echoes of summer. I opened the door to the chicken coop and the chickens lept out like paratroopers jumping behind enemy lines. I noticed the chicken feeder was nearly empty so I plucked it out and began re-filling it. One scoop… two scoops… three scoops... It was like someone had lit a blowtorch and pointed it into the middle of my chest, every heartbeat like a 5-pound hammer beating waves of pain, and I burst into a drenching sweat. I thought, "If I faint here it might be some time before I'm found, every second counts." I walked slowly, deliberately, back to the front door, pushed it open, and made my way to grab the back of a dining room chair. Taking a seat in the chair was impossible, I felt I was going to vomit or pass out. I didn't know which. I slowly crumpled to the floor, whimpering in pain and sweat. Hubby asked if he should call the emergency number. "Yeah", was all I could squeek out. The rest is a blur. The helicopter landed on the highway right in front of the house. I've been in the CVU (Cadrio Vascular Unit) at my local hospital. I now have 3 springs, called stints, in my heart. Recovery has been both painful and slow. When death is a real possibility, all the debates and arguments in the MMORPG world pale into insignifigance. Noise. Is it -really- all that important? Why do we waste so much time on a game when there are so many more important things in life? For me, I feel my time and passions would be better spent elsewhere, doing something meaningful and constructive. Turn off your computer, step outside, drink in real life while you have it. Lennbain, my friends!

The Bad Shall Inherit the World

Posted by Ariel_Arilon Friday August 15 2014 at 9:36PM
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We all know that many (if not all) MMORPGs pitch that age old adage of Good vs Evil. But where's the reward for being a good gal / guy?

Here are just a few examples from the last world I played in, I could list many many more.

There are vast areas of the world that are forever denied to you until you complete the prerequisite quests. There is no other way around it, if you want to see the world you must do them. Each quest has different skill requirements, so to do the quest you must train a variety of skills even if you have no interest in them.

There are many quests that to complete the quest require you to steal, either by picking a door lock (Breaking & Entering), pick-pocketing, or out-right thieving. I didn't want to be a thief, I had no interest in being a thief, yet I was forced to train and preform thieving in order to complete a number of quests.

One quest required that I kill an individual of a completely peaceful race, male or female, and take their bones. Another quest I was told to retrieve a piece of paper from a complete stranger. The only way to do that was to walk into a public place and outright murder him, search his body, and take it. There are "tasks" assigned by skill masters that require you to murder X number of individuals of a sentient race (isn't that genocide?!?).

I spoke to a long-time friend of mine (who had finished all the quests) about my concerns and he reflected about one particular quest where he had to slaughter a large number of innocent villagers. I was appauled. He quietly said he wasn't proud of it.

There are also clue scrolls that occasionally drop from creatures. Following the clues leds you to a treasure which randomly varies in value. One such scroll led me to a locked dresser drawer in someone's house. To get the key I needed to go to the nearby tavern where the home owner was located, cut him down in cold blood, take his key, and return to his house and unlock the dresser drawer to win the reward.

I didn't feel comfortable at all about what I was supposed to do but, "Hey it's just a game, right?"

So I went to the tavern, and instead of right-clicking to attack him, I accidentally just clicked on him. That triggered a dialog box from the guy I had to murder (I call it murder because he was an unarmed peasant). The dialog went something like; he smiled broadly as he remembered me, and thanked me profusely for having aided their community in a quest I had completed much earlier.

I sat at my computer dumbfounded.

How could I hack down this guy who just thanked me? Was I that greedy that I needed to have the paltry sum of coins and junk from his dresser drawer?

The issues that loomed in front of me were suddenly much larger than simply playing a game. Questions immediately came to mind as I stood there, sword hanging limply from my right hand, in front of the smiling peasant (who I'm sure would have gladly bought me a pint).

"O.K. smartass, what are you going to do now? Are you going to play this world AS A GAME, run your sword through his gut, and greedily take/gain as much as you can? Or are you going to role-play IN this world as a living breathing denizen, and role-play like you actually live here?"

"What's it gonna be?"

I saw a serious dilemma. To advance in this world I was going to have to do things I didn't want to do. If I did them, I'd be just like everybody else. I could have all the cool stuff and access to areas currently denied to me. But, if I took a moral stand (trying to be a good girl), I was going to be seriously limited.

Then the BIG QUESTION came to mind.

Where's the reward for things like goodness, honesty, helpfulness, kindness, mercy, chivalry?

I tried hard to recall the last time I had witnessed someone actually being CHIVALROUS. These qualities are highly valued in almost all societies, even primitive ones (or at least they used to be), but there was no game mechanism to reward such. The things that were rewarded were greed, deception, thieving, dishonesty, murder.

The more I thought about it, the angrier I got.

Furious, I walked out of the tavern and began shouting, "I won't do it! You can bloody well take this clue scroll and shove it where the moon doesn't shine!" Then I threw the clue scroll away, never to pick up another one again.

Players within earshot surely thought I was crazy.

So, how do game developers programme rewards for abstract things like kindness, tenderness, and mercy? And, more importantly, do game developers have an ethical obligation to encourage social morays that societies hold to be worthy and valuable?

In some sense, I feel they do.

I grant you that its just a game, but if game designers are going to have a world which rewards what we consider bad behaviors, then I feel they should AT THE VERY LEAST, 

provide opportunities and rewards for choosing to do what is right and good. You should not be punished by being limited for doing the right thing.

I hope that you play in an mmorpg that gives you that choise, mine didn't.

10 Cats & A Cattle Prod

Posted by Ariel_Arilon Monday August 4 2014 at 11:03PM
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You know... I might be wasting my time trying to encourage game developers to design their games to be more... female friendly. Here's why:

 

Role-Play vs Combat-Oriented MMOs is currently being hotly debated in the forums.

 

I see a parallel, its the Mac vs PC thing. It began with Mac Expo.

 

At one of those Expos, Steve Jobs showed an exciting demo of a new game from a young company that was going to be revolutionary and for the Macintosh first, Halo.

 

I remember watching the video. The computer was not running a pre-recorded movie but was running and rendering the game in real time. The crowd was stunned by the technical achievement and the visuals. They went nuts at the end of the demo. I couldn't wait to see a really great game that was Mac-friendly! I was soooo sick of seeing the only software for the Mac that I could find in the entire state was yet another version of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.

 

The leadership at Microsoft watched the demo too.

 

After the Expo, Microsoft swooped in like a vulture, snapped up the company and knifed the Mac version, even though it was nearly done. For some unfathomable reason they considered letting a great game come out for the Macintosh somehow a grave threat to Microsoft's gargantuan empire; either that or they just wanted to do something mean. Personally, I think it was a revenge killing for Apple not "knifing" QuickTime, as Microsoft had demanded. Bill Gates & Steve Balmer truely are the offspring of Satan (ever see them with their shoes off? Huh? I swear their feet are hooves!).

 

I'm a long time Mac user (my first computer was a Compaq-386). And despite the fact that we now use the exact same hardware that's in a PC, its discouraging to see year-after-year-after-year great games come out only for the PC. You PC users are really lucky that way.

 

I feel having tons of games to choose from is the Universe's way of sending you good karma for having put up with Microsoft's many different operating systems over the years. I am honestly happy for you.

 

If us Mac users are extremely lucky, we might see a Mac version 5-10 years down the road. But by then the game is on the downslide, the staff reduced to a re-boot monkey and a janitor (someone has to clean up the monkey poo), and a year or more since it was last updated. Some see Mac users as a last chance to grab new suc... uh... subscribers, just before they pull the plug.

 

I've no desire to run a PC game in emulation mode, nor do I wish to purchase another new or used PC. I'm not that big of a glutton for punishment. Strapping 10 cats to my naked flesh, stuffing a cattle prod into my mouth, then pushing me into a cold shower, that would be more fun!

 

But I have to admit the programmers at Micro$oft have gotten a lot better at plag... er... programming PCs (here's a tidbit of insider info: Microsoft software engineers have a covert name for Apple; "R&D South").

 

The prevailing wisdom has always been that there are more PCs than Macs, so to maximize profits they appeal to the greatest number of users. The same is now true with MMOs.

 

Role-players are ridiculously outnumbered by those who treat games as they would a pin ball machine (some MMOs even have a High Scores page). So to maximize profit game developers are going to give the greatest number of users exactly what they want.

 

Sound familiar?

 

If you use a PC and you're a role-player, it might slowly begin to dawn on you what its like to be left standing on the sidelines, just like us Mac users. Don't kid yourselves, game developers are going to go where the money is, and it ain't true RPGs.

 

There is so great an emphasis on FLASH & BANG that I almost went into a seizure when I saw a demo of Diablo 3.

 

So I've come up with a new slogan for these companies, "The more flash, the bigger the pile o' cash!™"

 

I'm getting depressed thinking about all this so I'm going to leave now, dig out the cattle prod, and catch a few barn cats.

 

"Here kitty kitty!..."

A Confession & Candy for RuneScape

Posted by Ariel_Arilon Monday July 28 2014 at 12:58AM
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O.K.  Time for a confession & some candy for a particular company, Jagex.

The Confession

For a bit over 3 years I've been playing RuneScape. I recently quit.

Until I came to this web site I didn't know the difference between a Sandbox MMO and a Theme Park MMO.

Now I do, thanks to the kind folks here who both inform and educate.  : )

The Candy

What the folks at Jagex have done over the past three years for RuneScape deserves some attention in the gaming community. Its about time they got some applause.

RuneScape is definitely a Theme Park MMO. This is a post about the AAA development team of intelligent, talented, and dedicated people who work at Jagex.

Here are some of the tasks they've done the the past few years that would make Hercules proud:

The programmers there are fearless! In order to make updating the giant code base easier and more manageable, they re-wrote entire thing, or a great majority of it. And they integrated the new code seamlessly, smoothly, and without crashes.

The combat system was a mess and needed an overhaul, so they spent a great deal of time and money re-writing it from the ground up, alpha testing it, getting player feedback, and balancing it (of course there were many players who preferred the old system and complained, so to make them happy they're bringing it back, allowing players to choose between the two).

Bots, the bain of many MMORPGs, were at plague proportions, thousands upon thousands of them. I stood in one spot and watched a new bot spawn every 30 seconds. That's 2,880 bots every day from a single source.

After years of anti-bot measures by Jagex and counter-measures by those who make, sell, and use bots, Jagex's programmers have all but eliminated them. There are still a few bots that pop up but they are relentlessly pursued and terminated. Go get em', guys!  ; )

Updates are at least once a week and their programmers pour over everything to make sure it works before the upload. Quest creators, character costume designers, 3D modelers, and animators should be the envy of the industry. They didn't have to do it, but at great cost nearly the entire world has been re-modeled with hands that lovingly crafted rich details. Some of the details are subtile and it was fun discovering/noticing them.

Its too bad I'm going to miss seeing the opening of the forthcoming elven city. The design documents looked great. I'm sure the final implementation will be stunning.

There is an incredible diversity of clothing and armour options. Its rare to see two players dressed exactly the same. And tons of emotes that move fluidly and life-like. Even though they didn't have to, a number of the emotes were re-worked by the animators.

Late last year there was a war between two gods. The animators and modelers outdid anything I could have imagined. When I walked into the presence of one of the gods, I sat at my chair, mouth agape. There was this giant bird god, on his perch, looking all majestic, proud, and fierce, wind gently blowing through the feathers of his two sets of wings! It was... epic.

Will I return to RuneScape?

Sadly, as a role-player, there is no place for me there.

But if you're a combat-oriented player and don't give a  **** about role playing, then RuneScape is an ever evolving world with new stuff added weekly, and all the fighting and skill grinding you could wish for.

There is a free-to-play area where you can get a feel for the game, and a reasonable subscriber fee should you want the whole enchilada.

Dwarves in Micro Skirts

Posted by Ariel_Arilon Friday July 25 2014 at 8:02PM
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Speaking of clothes, or lack thereof... (see my last post)

"I'm afraid our life must seem very dull and quiet compared to yours. We are but eightscore young blondes and brunettes, all between 16 and 19-and-a-half, cut off in this castle with no one to protect us. Oh, it is a lonely life. Bathing, dressing, undressing, making exciting underwear." - Zoot, Monty Python and the Holy Grail

STYLE

Game developers, this should be a no-brainer.

Girls want to look good. We don't want cookie-cutter looks (create a new character and they all look the same except for hair colour), we want to look different. We want variety. 

We want control over what we wear. Clothing is a reflection of who we are in game. Clothing can also reflect our mood, so what we wear can change from day to day, sometimes hourly (ever hear of mood swings?).

The ability to mix-n-match clothing items and to re-color them from a reasonable pallet is a must have in your game world.

Give us clothing that covers from head-to-toe; something peek-a-boo and sexy; something dark, moody and dangerous; something bright and cheery; something to match the changing seasons.

Customizing the avatar is very important to players.

Believe it or not it's important to guys too. I've literally seen guys fuss over putting together outfits for "just the right look", but especially girls. It will surprise you what combinations players will come up with given enough clothing options.

Players gathering and hoarding too much gold? Need a coin-sink to keep it in check?

We want to recklessly and foolishly spend our hard-earned coinage on different hair styles, jewelry, and clothing. Give us shops where we can spent it all ...and we will.

You want us to explore the world?

Scatter NPC merchants around the world with exciting and different clothing items and we'll scour the countryside with a hair comb to seek them out.

 

Can I get a "Amen, Sister!" ?

Stripping for Game Developers.. pt 2

Posted by Ariel_Arilon Thursday July 24 2014 at 11:09AM
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alright... for all you guys the stripping story is in this post.  : P

COMMUNITY

That ever elusive Holy Grail that game designers greatly desire. If you build and foster a strong community, those players will remain in your game for the long haul. A great community also generates good vibes about your game on social media sites. Some will create web pages dedicated to your game.

So, what aspect of the female psyche applies to community, and how do developers appeal to it?

Men tend to be loners (not social butterflies), the massive 2,000 lb. bull on the perimeter protecting the herd. But its women who are social creatures. So if you want a great community, look no further than your female population.

Here are a few examples from various games that I've played and where the developers missed an opportunity to build community:

Example 1

I knew a girl who occasionally appeared in the game. She never left town square, never went adventuring or exploring.

Of all the myriad number of available skills she trained and mastered only one, SEWING. That's all she did. You see, in that game all clothing deteriorates with time, and it was prohibitively expensive to take them to a specific NPC to have them mended.

She charged only 1 coin to repair any clothing item.

To her, what was more important than anything else was the social interaction. Chatting with old friends and meeting new folk were her delight. She loved talking to people and hearing the latest news. When she appeared word spread like wildfire and players would line up with clothes that needed repair. All of them were grateful for her kindness and invaluable service.

I secretly envied her.

What the developers missed-

Not everyone wants to be "The Hero". Many just want to do simple things well. Some are lonely and only want to chat. The developers should have designed simple merchant stalls where players could open a small business, earn some pocket change, and generally interact with people.

How it can be done. A player submits a proposed business. When approved, the player goes into town square and is able to make a small stall appear with his/her "wares". If the player leaves town square or logs out, the stall disappears.

How interesting would it be to wander into town square and see it filled, not with NPCs, but real folk selling modest wares?

For the really sneaky developers, you could slip in a GM-controlled merchant and have him/her drop juicy tidbits of rumors and information, then sit back and watch the feathers fly.

Example 2

One world I was in had dozens of picnic tables and park benches scattered throughout the world, taverns filled with tables and chairs. Not a single one could be sat on because they never bothered to make the chairs and benches "sit-able". How dumb is that?

Such a simple request, the ability to sit down. It's been asked for for a number of years. Many players, after a long day of questing and fighting, simply desired to rest in a local tavern, kick back with their favorite brew, and just chill with friends. What a great opportunity for players to socialize!

The developers had lame excuses why it couldn't be done, more important things to do, basically blew it off.

What the developers missed-

The point here is that to build community you must provide places (parks/taverns/merchant shops) and opportunities (events/holidays) for people to socialize. Remember, women are social creatures. We will congregate in those areas. I dare say that socializing is more important than the Next Big Thing™ you're working on.

Example 3

My elf character used to roam through the wood to a particular lonely and lovely spot where I would role-play swimming nude (you couldn't really get nekkid as the avatar had a starter set of clothing that couldn't be removed). The area even made a satisfying splashy sound as you walked through the water. It was not only fun but also part of my character, and not so unusual for an elf to go 'au natural'. Elves are, after all, creatures of the forest.

I suspected I was being watched (server console?).

note: in this particular game, the developers were also game masters. They could spawn monsters, spawn NPCs that could talk to you, spawn monsters that could talk to you, they had complete control.

As I disrobed and splashed about I could almost "feel" someone watching. But I couldn't prove it. So I didn't tell anybody and kept my secret place, a secret. When I needed some "alone time" I'd visit my secret place and act out my stripping and bathing ritual.

Sure enough, some time later when a new area was added it included a lake with a sign that read, "No Skinny Dipping!"

LOL  =^_^=

What the developers missed-

Sadly, real life can be cruel, very very cruel. All of us, at some time in our lives, have gone through a "dark night of the soul". Sometimes players sign-on to escape life for a bit and want or need to be alone. Or someone is hurting emotionally and you need a place where you can listen to them.

It should be a safe place where one's spirit is refreshed, visually beautiful and filled with the sound of living waters or gentle raindrops, trees and flowers, songbirds or crickets.

"We make games for people to have fun in. We're not in the Mental Health business."

-sigh-  *shakes head*

Many people don't have anyone they can turn to, especially in this digital age. The only people they may know, outside of immediate family, is their online friends. Should we turn a deaf ear to them and say, "Hey, I'm here to have fun, not listen to your problems."

Absolutely not!

I've lost count the number of times, in game, when someone was hurting and needed to be consoled or just listened to, both male and female.

How does this build community?

Make a few special places in the world where they can feel safe, they feel accepted. They are much more than a monthly payment. We accept you, warts & all, as a friend, companion, party member, and a valuable and irreplaceable living breathing denizen of this world. *hug*

Wouldn't that keep you coming back?

Game developers, you can have a subtle yet positive impact on many players' lives. You know in your heart this is right.

Do it. Please.

 

Can I get a "Amen, Sister!" ?

Stripping for Game Developers

Posted by Ariel_Arilon Thursday July 24 2014 at 12:06AM
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You shouldn't need to ask guys what they want in a MMORPG.

It's almost exclusively men who create the games. They devise games that they want to play. But how many game designers ask, "What do the female population of gamers want in a MMORPG?"

Probably all of them think about it at one time or another. But it amazes me how little they know and none of them ever get around to actually asking what females want.

According to a recent poll, females make up approximately 46% of the players in a MMORPG. So it makes sense to design a game that has compelling reasons and roles for females to play.

To make a game interesting to females you need to better understand them, both the feminine nature and psyche.

I'm going to paint with a wide brush. I acknowledge beforehand there are always exceptions.

 

WHAT WOMEN WANT (in a MMORPG)

 

MEANINGFUL SUPPORT ROLES

 

First of all, what do I mean by "Support Roles"?

An archer loosing arrows from a distance supports the "tanks" that wade in, a spell-caster standing behind the fighters unleashing arcane power to whittle down the enemy is a support role, a cleric performing healing or neutralizing poisons is a support role, a druidess castings defensive spells to slow and confuse the enemy is a support role, a high-level priestess exorcizing a powerful demon so the party can continue safely is a support role, a barmaid (spy) who listens to the drunken gossip of patrons and passes on valuable information is a support role.

None of the above are "front line troops", yet all of them can have an incalculable impact on the success of players.

It is the nature of men to face danger and hardship when hunting to bring home meat to his family. It is also the nature of women to bear their offspring and nurture them. These traits are hard wired into the sexes.

Here's an example:

Look at any RPG that has a Healer class and note that the majority of them are female. There's a reason for it.

Care and compassion appeals to the nurturing aspect of the female psyche.

Women are not physically built to go toe-to-toe against men. D'uh! Men have superior upper body strength. We would have ceased to exist as a species long ago if women went to war in equal numbers as men. That's reality.

"But MMORPG games are not reality!"

You're right. Game mechanics eliminated the physical differences between the sexes (so a female can have an equal chance of defeating a male), what it has NOT eliminated is the hundreds of thousands of years of evolution.

Women do not desire to go to war, do not enjoy massacring animals to gain XP, do not sit around campfires telling stories of great heroes and epic battles.

We do talk about food, children, boyfriends/husbands, friends, music, and the latest news and gossip. We do tend the wounded, aid the sick, prepare meals, gather fruits, nuts, & berries, comfort those who are grieving, spin & weave, plant a garden. Care and compassion. It is our nature to nurture.

If your game uses food or potions in lieu of a Healer class, then what you've done is taken away a valuable class that most women feel naturally drawn to. What we're left with is suiting up with the guys, which is definitely not appealing.

If you want women in your games, then give us meaningful support roles where we can make a difference.

 

Oh... and by the way, I will get to the story about stripping for game developers ; )

DON'T PANIC, just read it.

 

Next Post:  Building a enthusiastic community